AN: I'm really, really sorry. Here – have some hurt!Alec and some mama-bear!Winchesters to make up for the unexpectedly long wait. Also, fluff. Because, you guys, the fluff.

Thank you to everyone who has favourited or followed this story, and THANK YOU to everyone who reviewed! (I sincerely apologise for any reviews that I didn't reply to – dodgy internet, man. It's a killer. I live in a black hole.)

Amy – you should create a profile! That way I can message you back properly and say a huge thanks for requesting this – I probably wouldn't have ventured into the tryptophan area if you hadn't requested it, and I've really enjoyed writing this two-fer. Do it – sign up. You won't regret it! :) (Just Call Me Amy is actually a really cute penname – stick with that, maybe?)

Disclaimer: I don't own either Supernatural or Dark Angel. Also, not a doctor, so anything medical here has been learnt through the reliable (cough) sources of Google and various medical dramas.

Driving in Cars With Strangers; Part Two

Sam and Dean, Alec's fairly certain, are actually women.

Well. Maybe it's a bit unfair of him to say that.

After all – having their adopted clone suddenly go from "standing healthily" to "lying on the ground jerking uncontrollably" would come as a bit of a shock, so he supposes he can't judge them too harshly for their reactions.

Alec's not quite aware of what's going around him for the first thirty seconds or so after he hits the ground (distracted as he is with every muscle in his body seizing repeatedly), but gradually the violent shaking starts to taper off and sounds from the outside world start to bleed back in.

Namely, the sounds of Sam and Dean freaking the hell out.

"Alec? Alec!"

"Shit, dude, do we call paramedics?"

"And bring them to the still-burning remains of seven murdered people's scalps and an ape-monster? Yeah – great plan."

"Well what the hell do you suggest? He's – wait, wait – I think it's letting up. Alec? Can you hear us? Alec?"

"What?" Alec grumbles, irritated at the noise levels.

Well. That's what he tries to say, at least. It doesn't quite sound like that when it comes out of his mouth. His brows pull down in vague irritation at the garbled groan that comes out instead.

"Are you ok?" Sam asks, and then Alec hears the thud of Dean's hand slapping his brother's arm.

"Course he's not – the kid was just shaking like a friggin' cocktail maker," comes the voice to accompany the slap, and that's when Alec realises that his eyes are closed.

He's not sure when that happened, exactly, but all his instincts are very not ok with him lying out in the open with his eyes closed, even if his head is really rather comfortably pillowed…

And, wait – what? What's he lying on? He's 80 percent certain the ground shouldn't be this comfortable, and he's 90 percent certain that the ground he was standing on just before he fell was flat, not raised up under his head.

Alec's eyebrows scrunch down as he struggles to get his eyes open, and it's harder than it should be – his body is still being wracked with residual tremors, and his muscles aren't quite cooperating just yet – but after a few moments Alec manages to force his heavy eyelids up.

… Only to be faced with a very close up view of Dean's upside-down face.

"Damn, we're handsome," he says (because even upside-down, it is a devilishly good lookin' face), and the words are a lot clearer this time than his attempt at speaking was a few moments ago, for which he's thankful.

The oldest Winchester is peering closely at Alec, worry over every inch of his face, and Alec can see Sam crowding in from the side too, squishing his head in up close like he's trying to fit into a picture, and the light from the fire is casting playful patterns across both their faces.

Dean's angle is slightly odd, though, Alec notes. He's upside-down, leaning over Alec from behind, almost as though…

"S'my head on your lap?" Alec asks, slightly incredulous.

"You were thrashing around like a dying fish – you were gonna hit your head on something," is the response, which is as good as a yes.

Huh. Weird. He's never woken up with his head in someone's lap before. It's a strange experience.

The shaking has tapered off enough now that he's able to sit up though, and he was never one to be kept down for long, so he starts to pull his still slightly-shaky body up off Dean's lap.

Both brothers start helping him immediately, their huge paw-like hands fluttering and hovering and pressing warmly against his shoulders and back and forehead and neck and –

"Cut it out," Alec snaps once he's sitting upright, swatting at their hands. It takes them a second, but the brothers back off enough that they're no longer touching him. Alec doesn't fail to note, however, that they each look ready to catch him again if necessary, as though they're expecting him to keel over any second. Which… is fair enough, really, considering "keel over unexpectedly" is exactly what he just did.

"What the hell was that?" Dean demands, because if Alec's well enough to fend off their worried hands, he's well enough to tell them what the hell just happened.

"What did it look like, genius?" Alec snaps, and ok, maybe he's feeling a little defensive. Whatever. He hadn't wanted them to know about this – he's entitled to a little irritation at being found out. That, and he's still twitching, which isn't conducive to a guy keeping his patience. "It was a seizure."

Dean raises an eyebrow at him.

"Wanna tell us why the hell you had a freaking seizure when five minutes ago you were perfectly fine?" he demands angrily.

Dean has more than one type of angry, Alec's knows. He knows, because he's got different types of angry too. There's the defensive anger, and the you're-a-fugly-that-needs-to-be-put-down anger, and the you-just-hit-my-brother anger, and a whole host of others.

This one is the I'm-really-worried-but-I'm-bad-with-emotions-so-it -comes-out-like-anger anger.

"S'nothing," Alec says shortly, shrugging out from one of the hands that's sneakily landed on his shoulder again.

Now Sam's the one doing the eyebrow-raise thing.

"You call that nothing?" he asks blandly.

"Nothing I can't easily fix once we get out of this damn town," Alec clarifies, and pushes himself up onto his feet.

Two sets of hands are there again, bracing him and making sure he doesn't topple back down, and he suffers it stoically until he's steady, and then he shrugs them off. He's been with these guys a month now, sure, but the only kind of physical contact they ever engage in is the kind that turns quickly into a playful (but seriously competitive) scuffle that Sam usually has to break up.

Well, no, actually, that's not the only kind anymore – both brothers have taken to playfully or (not that they'd admit this) affectionately scuffing a hand over Alec's hair in recent weeks, and that's… well it's nice, sure… but it's taken some getting used to. Alec's really not used to the whole affection thing just yet. Manticore wasn't really one for physical contact, after all, unless it was the violent kind.

So all this 'helping hands' business is a bit more than he's used to, and he's feeling twitchy and restless and kinda tired, and he doesn't want to deal with the hands right now, so he shrugs them off as best he can whilst keeping his balance.

"Kid," Dean says sternly, and his hands are hovering but not touching, as though he knows it's all a bit much for Alec at the moment. "Explain."

Alec huffs irritably.

"It's nothing," he repeats. "Just a… glitch. All the X5's have it. I know what it is, and I know how to fix it. Now can we go, please? It'll take us an hour to get back outta these friggin' woods, and I don't know how long until another one hits me."

That gets them moving. The brothers had been looking like they fully planned to stand around and interrogate Alec some more, but they're next to an ape-bonfire half-way through a wood on the outskirts of the Middle of Absolute Nowhere, and Alec doesn't know how long it'll be until another seizure hits him. He's never actually been this bad off before – never actually gotten to the stage where he's seizing – and he refuses to acknowledge the nervousness that's fluttering around in his stomach. He's seen X5's taken away because of this… glitch before, and he never saw one come back.

"Ok, then," Dean says, and his hand coming to rest on the back of Alec's neck jolts the boy out of thoughts of basements and 'nomalies and never coming back. "You can tell us in the car."

Alec almost snorts, the last vapours of his dark thoughts sliding away as Dean gently propels him forwards. The Winchester brothers. Don't ever say they don't know how to prioritise.

Sam and Dean hover closely as they shepherd Alec through the woods back towards where they left the Impala, which turns out to be a good thing, because not only does Alec stumble more than once as the residual twitching throws his balance off, but – as predicted – another seizure hits before they make it all the way out.

The trek through the dark woods has taken nearly an hour, Dean's baby has just come into sight through the thinning trees – sitting just where they left her and glinting quietly in the moonlight – and the brothers don't get any more warning this time around than they did the first time.

"Uh," Alec says, pausing, and he does intend to say more – to tell them that his vision's just blanked out and he's fairly certain the whole seizure thing is about to happen again – but he doesn't get a chance to before his eyes roll back in his head and he's down.

"Shit," Sam and Dean say in tandem, both of them reacting instantaneously and catching Alec as he falls, guiding his violently jerking body down to the ground gently. Dean automatically pillows the kid's head on his lap again, and both brothers flutter their hands around the small, jerking body as they try to remember whether you're supposed to restrain someone who's having a seizure, or just let them have at it.

Two minutes, it goes for, but it feels more like so, so much longer, and more than one panicked conversation is snapped between the brothers as they urgently try to work out what's happening and why and what they can and/or should do to help and holy crap, they're really not equipped to be dealing with a seizing child in the middle of the woods in the middle of the night in the middle of nowhere.

"Ugh," Alec groans, coming to as the violent shaking fades down to a constant tremor.

"Alec?" the hunters ask together, the worry evident in their voices, and Alec flickers his eyes open for a second but closes them again quickly, because the moon is right overhead and it's a little too bright at the moment, and the kid gives another quiet groan as he rolls his head on Dean's lap and presses his face into the hunter's knee in an attempt to get away from the bright light.

"This is not awesome," he grumbles, words slurring a bit at the edges.

"We're nearly at the car, buddy," Dean says, and the way his hand runs over Alec's head is really rather comforting, even if the transgenic would never admit that aloud. "Think you can make it?"

Alec scoffs, but it comes out sounding more like a tired sigh than a proud huff of air.

"Course I can," he says, rolling over further so that he can get his hands underneath him. Sam and Dean help him up again as he pushes to his feet, but their hands dutifully retreat when Alec shrugs them off, only to dart back in again to catch him when his still-shaky legs fold underneath him.

"Gimme the keys," Sam says, once Alec's sitting (somewhat) steadily on the ground again and looking at his legs with a vaguely confused expression, like he's not quite sure how they could betray him like this. "I'll get the door open and you carry him."

"I don't need to be carried," comes the immediate and predictable response, and Alec's glaring at Sam with offence.

Dean ignores the kid entirely and fishes the keys out of his pocket to hand them over.

"I can walk!" Alec protests again, as Sam stands and uses his absurdly long legs to devour the distance between here and the Impala.

"That so?" Dean asks, and without warning his hands are under Alec's armpits and the kid's on his feet, and Dean pulls his hands away. Alec manages to stay standing for a grand total of two seconds before his knees buckle again.

"I've heard seizures are hell on the muscles," Dean says lightly after he's caught Alec, and the transgenic sends him a glare.

It's true, though. Alec was tired and twitchy after the first episode, but after this second one his legs feel more like jelly than actual useful appendages, and he reckons that if he were allowed to rest for a bit, he could force his muscles to behave the way they're supposed to. But he doubts that sitting just inside the fringe of the trees for twenty minutes is going to be okayed when instead he could be sitting in the warm car on the way out of here and towards a pharmacy.

Alec drops his glare with a petulant sigh. Dean takes that as the acceptance it was intended as and reaches out again.

And Dean is tall, Alec realises. He always looks kinda short standing next to Sam (because Sam's just freakishly huge), but as the hunter's arms come around Alec and gather him up securely and the ground starts getting further and further away as they both rise, Alec realises that Dean is actually really rather tall. The clone almost finds it hard to believe that he'll be this tall too, one day.

"Not a word of this," Alec says to Dean's collarbone, bringing his arms up around Dean's neck. For balance. "Ever."

Dean's chuckle rumbles out of his chest and into Alec, and his arms tighten fractionally around the boy.

"You got it," he says, and if Alec lets his head rest a little more heavily on the hunter's shoulder as they make their way towards the car, well – he's had two seizures in the last hour. He's tired.

Dean tucks Alec into the car with surprising talent – there's not one bumped head or elbow or knee at any stage during the transfer – and Alec snuggles into the leather of the Impala's back seat with a contented sigh. It was a good move, swallowing his pride long enough for Dean to carry him to the car. The Impala is way more comfortable than the forest floor.

Sam passes Alec a bottle of water that he fished out of the trunk as Dean closes the back door and heads around to the driver's seat, and the transgenic drinks gratefully. Who knew seizures were so dehydrating? The bottle's half empty before the brothers even finish settling into their own seats.

"So," Sam says, as Dean pulls his door shut and the Impala's engine rumbles to life. "Feel free to explain what we're dealing with, here."

Alec hesitates a moment, fiddling with the lid of the drink bottle and avoiding eye contact. He really doesn't want to tell them. Seriously; he hates that he's got a weakness in the first place, he's not about to start willingly handing out the details of it to anyone who asks, even if (or maybe because?) he happens to like the person who's asking.

"Alec," Dean says, without taking his eyes off the road, and he sounds kinda like a bear with the way his voice comes out all growly.

…Alec's not gonna get away with not telling them.

"It's like I said," he starts, slumping with defeat and not raising his eyes. His muscles are still twitching every now and then in the aftermath of the most recent seizure, but he ignores that and focuses his attention on the drink bottle in his hands, which he picks at the label of with a fingernail. "The X5's. They hadn't… Manticore hadn't perfected us yet. They were still working out kinks in their process. We were far more advanced than the Series they made before us, but still. They somehow managed to overlook that we all have a tryptophan deficiency."

"Tryto-who?" Dean asks, and Alec abandons the drink bottle on the seat beside him in favour of pulling his legs up and wrapping his arms around them, dropping his chin down to rest on his knees.

"Tryptophan," he says, and then recites, "One of the 22 standard amino acids and an essential part of the human diet. And the transgenic diet, as it happens. Normally I'm able to keep my levels up with no problem, but this damn town and their friggin' delivery failure…"

"Tryptophan," Sam says, a frown in his voice as he skims through his mental Encyclopaedia of Everything, and then there's a dawning sound of comprehension as he goes on. "That's… that's in chicken, yeah?"

"Seriously, is there anything you don't know?" Dean mutters.

"And turkey," Alec adds, mostly ignoring Dean. "Fish, soybeans, dairy. Everything that store doesn't have this week, basically."

"Dairy?" Sam says, twisting around to look at Alec properly. "Is that why you're always drinking milk?"

Alec shrugs one twitchy shoulder.

"Huh," Sam says. "I had wondered."

"So this deficiency," Dean says, getting everyone back to the main issue. "What happens if you don't get enough of this tryto-thing?"

Alec levels a flat look at Dean via the rear-view mirror.

"Seizures," he says dryly, and Dean rolls his eyes and directs the same flat look right back at his clone.

"No, really?" he says, heavy on the sarcasm. "Details, kid – give us details. Let us know what we're working with."

Alec shrugs one twitchy shoulder again.

"Starts with a minor tremor. Builds up from there until you're on the ground in the middle of a forest, seizing," Alec says simply. "Once I get some tryptophan into me I'll be fine. Symptoms will fade out and I'll be back to normal."

Ok, so… that's speculation. Alec actually has no idea what the long-term effects of tryptophan deprivation are in an X5. He's never gone so long without it himself, and even when he saw other transgenics fall prey to this little genetic whoops, they were never around long.

Manticore likes perfection, you see.

Manticore likes perfection, and any soldier who starts seizing because of something pathetic like a case of vitamin deficiency is less than perfect.

They're defective, to be precise. Manticore does not like defective.

Alec doesn't say any of that, though, because he doesn't want to think about it. Doesn't want to think about the unit-mates who started twitching, then shaking, then seizing, and who were then taken away by men in white lab-coats and who were never seen again.

He doesn't even know what happened to them. He knows that anyone who was defective was put down in the basement with the 'nomalies. He knows that he and his unit used to hunt 'nomalies during training. They always put up a good fight, the 'nomalies; made for good practice. They were tougher than humans, mostly, because they were like Alec, in a way. They were enhanced too. They'd just come out wrong.

Alec wonders, sometimes, if the unit-mates who got taken away became 'nomalies for someone else –for some other unit. He wonders if they were kept for studying by Manticore to find out what went wrong where, or if they were deemed completely useless and set loose in the woods with no weapons and a one-minute head-start, before a delegation of small children with weapons of various description were set after them…

Holy Metallica, Alec hopes that's not what happened. He thinks he might be sick if that's what happened. Because then – if his unit-mates were someone else's 'nomalies – then it stands to reason that his 'nomalies were someone else's unit-mates.

"All-night chemist it is, then," Sam says, and for the second time that night Alec's drawn away from his dark, nauseating thoughts, and he blinks and refocuses in time to hear Sam say, "We'll be at the motel in a minute. You stay put. Dean and I will grab everything."

Alec doesn't argue. Staying put sounds alright, to him. In fact, staying put sounds like a damn marvellous idea. He's still twitching sporadically in the aftermath of that seizure by the edge of the wood, and if there's a way he can avoid using any of his muscles right now, he's going to take it.

It takes slightly longer than a minute – closer to ten, to be honest – to get back to the motel, but when they pull up in front of their room Sam and Dean get out of the car quickly, vanish inside for a couple of minutes, and are back out in record time, one duffle slung over Sam's shoulder and two – because the brothers had insisted on Alec having more than one set of clothes and, thus, a bag to transport them – over Dean's.

Sam jogs up to the office to hand the key back, and he's back by the car by the time Dean's dumped the bags in the boot and settled himself into the driver's seat. Not a whole lot is said as they buckle up and pull out, heading for the road that will take them back to a more populated civilisation than they've spent the last few days in, and Alec's really feeling quite tired by now.

He leans his head against the window of the Impala, knees still drawn up to his chest, and tries to doze, but his muscles are still twitching too frequently for him to achieve anything even close to a nap.

"You let us know if you think you're gonna have another seizure," Dean says, sparing a glance into the back seat. He's going rather a bit more over the limit than he probably should be, but whatever. There's no one else on the road, he's an outstanding driver who can handle a bit of speed, and this is something of a medical emergency.

"Mmhm," Alec agrees, and he doesn't bother to open his eyes, so he misses the vaguely concerned glance that Sam and Dean trade at his quiet agreement.

Vaguely concerned, because in the month they've known him, they've never known Alec to be so… quiet.

Alec… Alec doesn't do quiet. Alec is a perpetually moving bundle of excess energy. The kid barely even sleeps, despite numerous protests from both brothers. He claims it's another genetic thing; he and the other X5's were engineered to run on very little sleep, because time spent sleeping is time that could be otherwise (and better) spent on fulfilling missions, and no amount of enforced bedtimes and morning anti-curfews (because left unchecked, the kid likes to get up at four am, and that's just Not Ok, genetic engineering or not) have managed to change that.

He's not a quiet kid. He doesn't sit slumped tiredly against the car door and try to doze.

And, what's more, Alec doesn't particularly like being given orders. Sam's theorised that it's part of his coping mechanism post-Manticore. Because Manticore were all about orders, from what the brothers have been able to pick up. The Man In Charge tells you to jump, you jump. He tells you to lie down, you lie down. He tells you to kill the man running through the woods, you kill the man running through the woods. No questions asked, no hesitation.

Disobeying is not an option. Hell; even thinking about disobeying isn't an option.

So Alec, happily escaped and stubbornly trying to forget everything about Manticore that he possibly can, tries to take every opportunity to rebel that presents itself.

Mostly, Alec's rebellions are limited to things that can be chalked up to a cheeky kid causing mostly-harmless strife; sneakily switching out table numbers in diners, or slipping snacks into his pockets when they're out shopping and he thinks he can get away with it (or into the basket and hidden between two regular items when he doesn't think he'll get away with out-and-out theft without Sam catching him), and stealing the left sock from every pair the brothers own and hiding them under the seats of the Impala, and other such minor, passive-aggressive behaviours that don't really hurt anyone, but are just designed to annoy the crap out of everyone around him.

It's never been anything huge – nothing that's ever caused a problem. The kid's sensible enough to know that if they're on a hunt, and Sam or Dean says to run, he should most definitely run, and he's got enough respect for both of them that if they ask him to do something he'll probably do it… but he'll make a point of bitching and grumbling as much as possible while he does it, and he'll make sure that both of them know that he's doing what they ask of his own volition, and not just because they asked him to.

The point is – when Dean says something like "You let us know if you think you're gonna have another seizure," it should be met with snorts of derision and accusations of mother-henning, before eventually a grudging, put-upon agreement. Not a simple, easy, quiet, "Mmhm."

Needless to say, the brothers are concerned.

Dean's foot presses down further, and the Impala surges along the otherwise empty road.

It's a bit over half an hour later that there's a choked sound of surprise from the back seat that cuts off suddenly, and is replaced by a rhythmic thudding as Alec's head slams against the window as he seizes again.

Sam – who's spent most of the last forty minutes watching Alec to make sure they react as soon as possible if/when another seizure hits – shouts something to Dean, but it's not really necessary because Dean's already braking hard and pulling the Impala over to the curb as quickly – but as smoothly – as possible.

Sam's out the door before Dean's even finished putting the car in park, but Alec's sitting behind the driver's seat so Dean's the one who gets to him first, yanking the passenger door open and deftly catching the boy as he starts to fall sideways out of the car, no longer supported by the door.

Sam's there just half a second later and he and Dean are swearing and muttering under their breath as they gently manoeuvre Alec's violently-twitching body out of the car and onto the flat surface of the grassy curb, his head pillowed on Sam's lap.

"They're getting closer together," Sam says tersely, glancing quickly up at Dean, who looks just as tense and worried as Sam feels. "There at least an hour between the first two, but only fifty minutes between the last one and this one. If they're gonna keep getting closer together…"

"Yeah," Dean says, clenching and unclenching his teeth as they wait for the seizure to pass, because what else is there to say? They need to get Alec some of that Tryto-stuff as soon as possible. They've been driving way over the limit since they left the motel, but there's still a way to go before they hit civilisation, and then they need to find a 24 hour drug store, because it's still the middle of the night, and regular pharmacies aren't likely to be open at What-The-Hell O'Clock in the evening (morning?).

Sam falls silent too, and the two of them fret and stress soundlessly until finally, after what seems like forever, Alec's shaking tapers off into the occasional twitch, and he blinks his eyes open sluggishly.

"Ow," he mutters quietly, and the brothers exchange wide-eyed looks of concern over the kid's head, because this is worse than his quiet acquiescence earlier.

Because they might not know a whole lot of what happened at Manticore, but Sam and Dean both know that Alec – the genetically enhanced child-soldier who's spent every year of his life to date undergoing painful and rigorous and painful training regimes and missions – has an extremely skewed example of a pain scale.

Falling into a thorn bush and getting scraped to high hell is annoying, but not in any way painful. If they're deep or long enough, knife-wounds are maybe worth a wince. Even bullet wounds, which have the potential to have Sam and Dean bitching about the pain (and the Winchester brothers will hardly claim that their pain-scales are within the realms of normality), barely register for Alec as worthy of anything more than a quiet, pained grunt every now and then.

So ifAlecis saying something like "Ow," then – mild as the word may be – clearly the pain he's feeling is pretty damn bad.

"Hey, kid," Dean says, in place of what he wants to ask, which is How're you doing, kid?, because useless questions are useless and asking Alec how he's doing right now would be pretty damn useless. "Glad you're back with us."

There's a pause for half a moment.

"I was gonna say something witty and scathing to that," Alec says, and his tongue's not completely under control yet, because his words are still slurring at the edges, "but I didn't think of anything in time, and now the moment's gone."

Dean snorts a laugh that's designed more to make Alec feel comfortable than because he actually feels like laughing, and reaches out to help the kid sit up, because as much as he'd like to let Alec rest a bit before moving him, they've got to get going again as soon as possible. Sam assists, and between the two of them they get a still-twitchy, grumbly Alec into the car, only they lie him down this time, so that the next time a seizure hits, he doesn't start slamming his head against the window again.

Alec puts up a token verbal resistance as they help him into the car, because it feels like stabbing his pride in the eye with a blunt knife to accept help with something as simple as getting in a car without even a word of complaint, but he really doesn't have a leg to stand on at the moment. Literally. If he tries to stand with either of his own legs right now, they're gonna collapse underneath him, so while he does grumble, he doesn't grumble too much as Sam and Dean support the majority of his weight and guide him into the car – complete with a hand on the top of his head to make sure he doesn't bump it on the roof.

He kind of wants to know which of the brothers is responsible for that bit of soccer-mom-ery, because he's totally going to give them all kinds of grief for it later, but when he glances over his shoulder they're both looking perfectly innocent, so with a narrow-eyed look at the pair of them he lets it go.

For now, at least. Maybe he'll just tease them both for it after this whole damn thing is over. For the soccer-mom moment, and the general freaking out they've both been doing over him. They're both being mother-hennish enough right now to deserve a huge dose of merciless teasing later, in Alec's opinion.

(And he doesn't like it. It doesn't make him feel even a little bit warm on the inside, how they're both freaking out over him and shielding his head from roof-bumpings and giving up a night's sleep in favour of getting him some tryptophan as soon as physically possible. Not at all.)

The brothers have just got him settled, stretched out along the back seat and looking tired and a little bit miserable and a lot grizzly, when Dean sends a glance down the road in the direction they'll be driving in a moment, then looks back at Alec (who looks tiny with the way he's slumped exhaustedly across the seats), ponders for a moment, then says, "To hell with this."

Sam blinks at him in surprise but doesn't get the chance to do much more than that before Dean's reaching into the car, ignoring Alec's confused, curious expression and half-lifting the kid, then sliding into the backseat with him and lowering Alec again until his head and shoulders are pillowed comfortably on Dean's lap.

"You drive, Sammy," Dean says, ignoring the perplexed, vaguely grumbly noises Alec makes as he's repositioned without so much as a by-your-leave. "We don't want to have to pull over every time he seizes because he's hitting his head on something. You drive, I'll make sure he doesn't hurt himself."

"Right," Sam says with a nod, after just a brief hesitation. Because he knows his brother. He knows his brother better than Dean realises he knows him, and being there to stop Alec hurting himself mid-seizure is part of the reason Dean's decided to ride in the back, certainly, but it's also because Dean is – despite what he would vehemently claim – a very tactile person who (Sam knows this thanks to years of experience) both gives and receives comfort best when it's delivered through touch.

Dean sitting in the back with Alec, pillowing the kid's head on his lap and resting a gentle hand on the tiny, quivering shoulder, will make both of them feel better – Dean, because he'll feel like he's doing something instead of just sitting there while Alec's lying there ill; and Alec, because the transgenic is a miniature Dean in more ways than not, and when he's sick, Dean has always liked to… Sam's just gonna put it out there: snuggle. Dean has always liked to snuggle when he's ill.

Not that Sam would say any of that out loud, now or ever, because Dean (and probably Alec, to be honest) would kill him if he ever dared to imply that either of them liked to something as unmanly as cuddle, but hey – Sam calls it as he sees it. Even if it's only in the safety of his own mind.

So now, Sam simply nods and shuts the door for Dean, then slides into the driver's seat and gets ready to put the pedal to the metal.

He's heartened to hear mumbled grumblings from the back seat that amount to Alec telling Dean he's being a touchy-feely girl, followed by Dean telling him to shut up and go the hell to sleep already, and Sam's smirking a little to himself as he pulls his door shut and aims the Impala back out onto the road.

Even with Sam driving over half the distance, the three-hour drive between The Middle of Absolute Nowhere and Anywhere Else takes just under two hours.

Alec has three more seizures during that time, each one a little sooner than the last, and by the time the Impala skids to a halt in front of a 24-Hour drug store that Dean looked up on Sam's computer as they sped along the road while Alec twitched sporadically, the brothers are two big giant bundles of anxiety and distress.

Alec's gone from stoically ignoring the aches caused by the seizures to making a suppressed sound of pain in the back of his throat every time he moves – which includes every jolts as the car bounces over pothole and every slide from a corner that's taken too fast. The residual tremors that wrack his body are the nastiest, and as the situation worsened over the course of the drive, Dean abandoned his embarrassment and awkwardness and started running soothing fingers through Alec's hair, keeping up a calming stream of murmured comfort each time a tremor made Alec's eyes slam shut and his hands ball up into fists as he tried to reign in the sounds of pain that slipped out from between his teeth.

The Impala's barely pulled to a stop before Sam's out of the car and in the doors of the pharmacy, and Dean opens up his own door more slowly and gently eases out from underneath Alec, guiding the kid down to the seat and getting a bottle of water ready to help wash the tablets down.

A couple of sounds of pain slip out past Alec's lips at the movement, and Dean rumbles out quiet apologies and generic soothing words until Alec's settled again, and it's quiet for a moment before Alec sighs tiredly and says, "Can we never do this again, please?"

Dean snorts.

"Which bit?" he asks. "The going on a hunt in a town that has no decent food bit, or the seizing our way back to civilisation bit?"

"All of the above," Alec sighs, flopping a heavy hand to and fro in an all-inclusive gesture. "Let's throw in the ape-thing that scalps people while we're at it. And Sam's stirfry."

Dean snorts again.

"Sam's cooking in general," Dean corrects. "Let's not limit this to his so-called stirfry."

"I totally get now, why you never let him cook," Alec says with a tired I hear ya expression to match.

"You should see what he does to tacos," Dean says, and shudders, and then the awful cook in question is coming back out the doors and hurrying back over to them, already twisting the top of the small bottle in his hands and with a plastic bag hanging from his wrist.

He starts talking before he's even fully at the car.

"I got in and out as fast as I could – these were the first ones I saw," Sam says, finally getting the lid off and starting to shake some of the small white circles out into his hand. "There's half a gram of tryptophan to each pill, Alec – how many do you think you need to fix this? Is it possible to overdose on this stuff? I should have got you to look it up while we were driving, Dean. I can't see anything on here about OD-ing – it just says to 'use as your doctor prescribes,' which isn't overly helpful –"

"Calm down, Sammy," Dean and Alec say in tandem, and the twin-action is still new enough – even after a full month – that it startles Sam into silence for a moment.

"Right," he says, and then crouches down inside the open car door next to Alec's head. "Sorry. So how many, do you think?"

Alec's nose scrunches up as he thinks for a moment.

"Six," he decides, making sure that he sounds like he knows what he's talking about, instead of that he's winging it, which is totally what he's doing. *Three grams of the stuff should be enough to fix him up. He doesn't know exactly what the recommended daily intake of tryptophan is, but he thinks it's somewhere between half a gram and two grams, and five counts as an overdose for regular people, so considering that he's currently seriously deficient, three grams should be… around about right to fix this up.

Clearly his I know what I'm talking about voice worked, because Sam's counting out six of the tablets and holding them out, and Dean's right there with the already-uncapped bottle of water.

Alec reaches out gingerly and takes the small pile of tablets, shoves the whole lot of them in his mouth and downs them with one big swig of water and a grimace. Ugh, he hurts. The seizures have wreaked utter hell on every single muscle in his body, and so long he's lying utterly still, it's just a throbbing ache that he can mostly ignore, but the second he moves, it's like every muscle he's got is cramping with the worst kind of cramp imaginable.

Dean's hand is there to take the drink bottle away the second Alec's done with it, and then the transgenic slumps back down into the carseat, closing his eyes.

"Hey Brainiac, any idea how long this'll take to kick in?" he asks, before belatedly realising that asking such a question might cast aspersions on how familiar he is with this whole thing, which, oops.

Judging by the pause, that's exactly what Sam's thinking too, but the older man apparently decides to let it go for now.

"Well regular pain pills and such take about twenty minutes to take effect," he says. "So this is probably similar?"

"Awesome," Alec says on a tired exhale. "So, I'm kinda tired. Is anyone else kinda tired?"

Dean's lips quirk up and he stands, shucking off his jacket as he goes.

"We'll go find us a motel, and then we'll sleep til about midday tomorrow, whaddya say?" he says, glancing down at Sam with a slightly raised eyebrow.

"That sounds fantastic," Sam says, and Dean can see the exhaustion he's feeling reflected in Sam's face.

Dean nods once and sets about bundling his jacket up, then he reaches past Sam back into the car and gently raises Alec's head (ignoring the kid's perplexed grumbling) and stuffs the jacket under there as a pillow.

Alec makes a grumpy-sounding noise that might be a grudging thanks, and it's only because Dean knows himself so well and knows how he gets awkward and uncomfortable when people do nice things for him that he knows not to be offended by Alec's apparent lack of gratitude.

Sam stands up too and follows Dean's example, shucking out of his jacket quickly and reaching back into the car, this time draping it over Alec like a blanket, the kid sends a narrow-eyed look up at them from under the collar of Sam's jacket and grumbles, "You're both women. Women."

Sam snorts.

"You're welcome," he says, and Alec huffs and burrows down under the jacket until only the top of his head is visible.

The brothers trade an amused smirk and then clamber into their own seats, Dean in the driver's seat and Sam shotgun, already thinking about the beds that they will soon collapse into. Twenty minutes from now, hopefully, the worst of this whole thing will be behind them, and they're both pretty damn eager to get to that point.

They find a motel on the edge of town, and Dean happily pulls in and parks outside the reception building, then he and Sam turn to let Alec know they've arrived, and they both blink.

The kid's asleep.

The kid's sound asleep, curled up in the back seat of the Impala with Sam's humungous jacket still draped over him like a blanket and his face buried in the pillow Dean's jacket is serving as, and it's not adorable.

It's not. Really. Neither Sam nor Dean get a warm, kinda-fuzzy feeling spread through their chests when they look back and see how the kid's sleeping.

They don't.

(…Ok, maybe they do.)

Even as they look, another tremor wracks the small frame, but it's way less violent than earlier ones and they're hopefully coming fewer and farther between now, and anyway – Alec manages to sleep through it, so it can't be as bad as it was before.

"I'll get the room," Sam says quietly, and gets out of the car to head into reception, and thank Metallica that this is one of the places that keeps someone on the desk all night, otherwise they'd be sleeping in the car which would so not be ideal right now.

The younger Winchester slips out of the car as silently as he can and vanishes into the building ahead of them, then comes back out a few minutes later, points in the direction of the rooms and holds up four fingers.

Dean nods and eases the car into reverse, turning her around and cruising along until he comes to a stop outside Room 4, and by the time he's got the ignition off and his door open, Sam's at the boot getting their bags.

Dean climbs out of his seat and opens up Alec's door, and the kid doesn't even stir. Dean used to do this all the time with a kid-Sammy, so he knows what he's doing as he reaches in and slides his arms under Alec's boneless body and eases him up and out, and he knows now how exhausted the kid must be, because even with all the slamming doors and being picked up and lifted out of the car, he stays solidly asleep.

Dean uses his hip to bump the Impala's door closed, repositions Alec's dead-weight in his arms until the kid's head is resting on Dean's shoulder and his arms are hanging limp, and by the time he's done all this, Sam's got the motel door open and has vanished inside.

Dean follows, Alec warm and floppy in his arms, and inside there are two singles and a roll-away, and Sam's already pulled the covers back on the roll-away.

Alec still doesn't stir when Dean puts him down on the mattress, but when Sam pulls the covers up over the limp body, he sighs a little and rolls over just enough to press his face into the pillow before he goes still again.

Relieved of his burden, Dean heaves a sigh and sits on the bed where Sam dropped his duffle, toeing off his shoes and leaving them where they land.

"You goin' to sleep?" Sam asks, from where he's rifling through his own bag.

"Damn straight," Dean says, yanking his shirt off and dumping it on top of his shoes. "Screw consciousness, that's what I say. Why? Aren't you?"

Sam shakes his head, and gestures towards the laptop that he's fished out and that's now sitting on his bed.

"Nah," he says, sitting down and toeing off his own shoes. "Think I'm gonna do some research. Look into tryptophan, see what it does, what it's in. We don't wanna have something like this happen again."

Dean opens his mouth to argue – to tell Sam to leave it until morning, don't worry about it, get some sleep – but then sees the glance Sam sends Alec, and shuts his mouth.

Sam doesn't like not knowing things, and he especially doesn't like not knowing things that concern people he cares about. Alec gave the two of them a hell of a scare, Dean's not afraid to admit, and although the kid seems certain that the pills will fix this all up and he'll be all good by tomorrow, they're still not 100 percent sure, and Sammy hates being unsure.

"Alright," Dean says, standing up and kicking his pants off to join the shirt and shoes on the floor, then pulling his covers back and sliding gratefully under them. "Just don't stay up too late, ok?"

Sam sends him a smirk.

"Yes, mom," he says, and Dean swats at him halfheartedly.

"Shaddup," he says, shuffling around until he's comfortable and flicking off the lamp by his bed, leaving Sam's as the only illumination in the room. "Now I don't wanna be woken up for anything before, like, noon tomorrow. Capiche?"

"Oh, agreed," Sam says. "And then there will be coffee. Strong coffee."

"Absolutely," Dean agrees, shutting his eyes happily.

It's perhaps a minute before Sam starts tapping away on his laptop, and Alec's breathing is deep and even from across the room, and those two sounds lull Dean quickly to sleep.

Come morning, Alec will be back to his bouncy, overly energetic, can't-sit-still self, and he and Dean will get matching Big Breakfasts at the local diner (because they're back in civilisation now, where diners exist), and Sam will get a fruit salad and both the Winchesters will get one each of the largest coffee available and Alec will get a tall glass of milk, and he'll tease the brothers mercilessly about how they went all mama-bear on him, and he'll try not to let on how much he liked it but they'll be able to infer that anyway.

And from now on, Sam and Dean will make sure that there's always at least one bottle of tryptophan in Alec's duffle, and a backup one in the medkit.

Just in case.


* Medical Disclaimer: Please do your own research into tryptophan, Recommended Daily Intakes, and overdoses – don't rely on any info here as irrefutable fact. I did do research into all of the above, but many sites had conflicting details and I'm totally not a doctor, so… yeah. Take all of the above info on tryptophan with a decent pinch of cynical salt.

AN: Thanks for reading! Hope you enjoyed. And thanks CHiKa-RoXy for the "Screw consciousness" prompt.

Now, I'm not going to make any promises on whenthe next instalment will be up, this time. I'm writing an original story, and that plus Life In General sometimes drags me away from fic writing. So I won't make a promise on when the next chapter of this will go up, but I will promise that it'll happen. I have no intentions of abandoning this 'verse, don't worry. :) I'm having far too much fun.

Please let me know what you thought of this latest instalment. :)